According to experts, our democracy is not doing well. However, there is a point of hope: the local efforts of citizens themselves. Where citizens are acting hands-on, taking on tasks in their municipality, positive energy emerges. Local authorities mainly have the responsibility to 'let go'. This study looks at six locations in the Netherlands where people are renewing local democracy. What do the citizens involved and local politicians think about this? And what do people think that have nothing to do with this hip 'decentralizing'? The rise of the 'do-democracy' leads to a new political reality: the Montessori-democracy, with a lot of freedom for citizens' own initiatives. The municipal council withdraws and the relationship between citizens, local authorities and civil servants becomes more informal. This it great for people who are socially dexterous, but to represent common people it is not sufficient. Along with freedom for active citizens renewal of representative democracy is much needed.
Evelien Tonkens is professor of sociology at the University of Amsterdam.